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Gang of Losers

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Album Review

After the orchestral extravaganza of 2004's fantastic No Cities Left, the Dears didn't leave themselves much room on their next album to go even bigger, lusher, more orchestral. It would be too much, and they knew it, so instead they chose to strip down their arrangements, make them simpler and less ornate. This isn't to say that Gang of Losers is just Murray Lightburn playing an acoustic guitar and crooning forlornly, but it does mean that the Dears seem to have traded in their strings and horns for more straightforward electric guitar and keyboard riffs. "Ticket to Immortality," the first single, still features Lightburn majestically singing, "I hang out with all the pariahs" (he is almost obsessed with the idea of not fitting in — it's a theme that continues throughout the record), but it also follows a fairly standard verse-chorus type formula; there are none of the eight-minute expositions found on No Cities Left. In fact, most of the songs are a lot more "standardly constructed," but done so in a way that keeps the band's dramatic Queen-meets-the Smiths aesthetic intact without overwhelming listeners with myriad undulations and structural dissections. There's still the propensity for classical resolutions and progressions, but it's much more of a rock record than their last. "Bandwagoneers" is a lovely piece with solid guitars and a smooth intensity that comes not only from the lush instrumentation but also from the fluctuations in Lightburn's voice. He offers a wider range of emotion than he has before, moving from contemplation to anger in a single phrase ("Why can't everyone live out happily ever after?" he wonders as the song begins circling around itself, finally fading out into an electric guitar rant); equally good is the poppy "Hate Then Love," which keeps the ascending scales while still incorporating catchy melodies and simple chords. "I Fell Deep" begins with something like an interpretation of the piano riff from Radiohead's "Pyramid Song" and turns bluesy with an organ and background chorus, almost fit for musical theater, while "Whites Only Party" is lyrically complicated but sticks to basic, quick-moving acoustic guitar and piano with a Western feel, complete with a frontier-town-inspired guitar solo. Still, everything on the album is very much the Dears, very much how they've always presented themselves, very much what they've always done. They're a little less baroque, they're a little less depressing (maybe Lightburn's marriage to bandmate Natalia Yanchak helped things here), but they're just as emotional and affecting, which makes Gang of Losers very good indeed.

Customer Reviews

rambling hard pop with a great voice!

Vocals reminicent of The Smiths and a rambling hooky style create a great anthemic disc. The frontman has one of the best voices I have heard in a great long while and the guitar driven arangements are lush and varied. Many sonic delights rest among the tidal swells of sound that wash this quirky disc. Enjoy!

Their best yet!

I'm loving this album. It's quite a bit heavier compared to their last, great vocals and some fantastic hooks in songs such as "you and I are a gan of losers" and of course "White only party". Hell even the open instrumental "Sinthro" is awesome, with bass so thundering it almost blew the subwoofer! AWESOME!

Less Noir, More Pop

You'll find yourself doing a lot more singing along rather than sitting in a corner slowly rocking back and forth. The Dears have matured into a wonderfully dark and melodic sound, and I think this is going to be one of my favorites this year. Listen to it about three times and I guarantee you'll be hooked.


Formed: 1995 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s, '10s

The Dears, a loose collective of Montreal-area musicians formed in 1995, are led by the charismatic Murray Lightburn. Citing Serge Gainsbourg as a major influence, the band combines cabaret-style vocals with a moody, intense brand of orchestral pop/rock. Lightburn's vision for the band is to create music out of real emotions, often giving his performances the feel of a musical therapy session. Given the level of intensity that this vision can require, it's not surprising that the Dears have endured...
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